MIAMI – The federal government will post civil rights monitors at the polls in several Florida counties during the Nov. 5 election, state officials said Friday.
Florida Secretary of State Jim Smith had asked the Justice Department for help after the botched Sept. 10 primary, when problems delayed some vote tallies for a week and polling places did not open on time.
Among the counties that will have monitors are Miami-Dade, Orange and Osceola, which were all involved in the 2000 presidential election debacle.
The Justice Department said other counties will have monitors, too.
"Our paramount concern is to protect access to, and the integrity of, the voting process for all qualified voters," Attorney General John Ashcroft wrote to Smith in a letter released Friday.
Ashcroft also said up to $100,000 will be provided to Florida for additional training for poll workers, who complained about the state's new touchscreen voting machines.
Alan Stonecipher, spokesman for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill McBride, said the campaign is trying to obtain more details of the agreement.
"The presence of outsiders at the polls can either be helpful or inhibiting in the process of everyone voting," Stonecipher said. "Our interest is in making certain that everyone has a clear opportunity to vote."
Stonecipher again criticized Republican Gov. Jeb Bush for not ensuring the primary went smoothly, especially after the marathon 2000 presidential election won by Bush's brother.
"His election reform package failed to get the job done and now they are calling in the reinforcements from Washington," he said.
Bush spokeswoman Katie Muniz said the governor welcomed the help and she called the McBride campaign's criticism "ridiculous."
The primary was Florida's first major test of new and expensive touchscreen computers that replaced the punchcard ballots made infamous during the 2000 presidential recount.
Most counties using new touchscreen machines had only minor problems. Miami-Dade and Broward, however, had myriad technical glitches stemming from poor planning that left improperly trained poll workers with the task of troubleshooting the machines. Thousands of votes cast in both counties were not counted until days later.
Public outrage following the primary and a desperate wish to avoid becoming the butt of international ridicule once more has resulted in dramatic changes in how counties will approach the general election.
In Broward County, elections supervisor Miriam Oliphant gave up most of her responsibilities under pressure from state and local officials. Her predecessor's deputy, Joe Cotter, is overseeing poll worker training and all poll station duties.
In Broward, elections supervisor Miriam Oliphant gave up most of her responsibilities under pressure from state and local officials.
Some 1,200 paid county employees, not volunteers, will be in charge of setting up and troubleshooting the voting machines. Workers also will be required to confirm when they arrive at polls, open for voting and report any problems so the county can keep tabs on trouble spots.
Earlier this week, Miami-Dade officials decided to hire a group that monitors elections in developing democracies for corruption and error to watch the polls.